Last year, the man accused of deliberately driving his SUV through a crowd of people taking part in a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin, killed six people and injured dozens more in his homicide Thursday amid concerns for his mental health. Court proceedings began during the trial.
Darrell E. Brooks, 40, was identified Nov. 21, 2021, when a red SUV plunged into a crowd celebrating the city’s Christmas parade, turning a joyous afternoon into a carnage.
Brooks was released less than two weeks ago in a domestic abuse case and prosecutors recommended $1,000 bail, which has since been called “too low.” In that case, he allegedly ran over a woman who claimed to be the mother of his child, court documents show.
According to the amended indictment, Brooks is charged with six counts of intentional homicide with a dangerous weapon, more than 60 counts of first-degree reckless endangerment of security and six counts of fatal hit-and-run.
The trial was particularly unusual because Brooks represented himself in court and repeatedly disrupted court proceedings with provocative and eccentric behavior.
The jury selection, which began on Monday, quickly turned into a farce, as Brooks repeatedly interrupted the judge to argue with her ruling, saying he didn’t have enough time to prepare, CNN affiliate WISN reported. Judge Jennifer Doro ordered Brooks to move to a separate courtroom to participate remotely and kept him silent until it was his turn to speak.
“This court on day one, it’s 2.15pm, this court had to remove Mr. within five minutes of sitting this morning. According to WISN, Brooks was based on his interruption at the time.”
In another courtroom, Brooks could be seen talking to himself and gesturing while muted. At one point, he rested his head on the table and draped the blazer top over his head.
The disruption to his court continued on Thursday. Judge Doro again ordered Brooks to be moved from the courtroom to an adjoining room, and Brooks can then be seen in the video taking off his shirt and turning his back to the camera. Brooks was later allowed to return to the main court.
Prosecutors dismissed claims Brooks was mentally incompetent and said his interference and provocation were merely an attempt to disrupt the proceedings.
“As we get closer to actually taking this case to a jury, he is acting deliberately and is trying to undermine these proceedings and avoid the inevitable,” the prosecution said.
Judge Doro agreed, saying she believed “that was the sole intention of Mr. Brooks to mock the process.”
In his opening remarks, prosecutor Zachary A. Wittchow described how the Christmas parade began as a joyous holiday celebration, watched by thousands on the streets.
“I think you’ll see from the video that there’s a real sense of joy in the air,” Wittchow told the jury. “Darrell Brooks killed that joy. He replaced it with terror, trauma and death,” he continued.
“I’ll hold off on your honor this time,” Brooks laughed, still wearing his orange prison uniform. “I need more than enough time to make sure I get the points I need to make,” Brooks continued.
The testimony began Thursday night with a Waukesha police officer and a parade witness who was also Brooks’ girlfriend on the day of the attack.
At the conclusion of the testimony, Judge Doro noted that Brooks had behaved well. “I really appreciate you coming back and following the rules,” the judge said.
“Thank you for giving me the opportunity to come back,” Brooks responded. “I appreciate what you say.”
Brooks had previously pleaded not guilty to insanity, but his public defender withdrew his insanity plea in September. Lawyers later filed a motion to withdraw from the case, and the judge ruled that Brooks was allowed to represent himself at the trial.
However, his mother, Dawn Woods, who wrote to the judge and spoke to CNN affiliate WTMJ, is concerned her son is not stable enough to defend himself. “I hate to say that,” Woods told league members. “You’re going to see manic, mature.”
The trial will feature a series of witnesses who are expected to tell of the violence and chaos on the day of the attack.
The victims included an 8-year-old boy and three members of the Milwaukee “Dancing Granny” group who participated in the march.
A video recorded by Angela O’Boyle as she watched the parade from the balcony of her fifth-floor apartment showed the SUV hitting a member of the marching band. The vehicle then continued forward, struck the band and others in the crowd, and drove away.
“It hit at least two people right away and turned them over. Then continued down the road to People’s Park at the end of the block — and then continued on, and it didn’t stop,” O’Boyle told CNN TV News Network.
An officer described the vehicle as driving in a zig-zag shape, the complaint said.
Another witness, Angelito Tenorio, said at the time there was “absolute chaos” at the scene.
Video shows SUV dashing over parade parade
“No one knew if it was an attack, or an accident, or a deliberate attack on the marchers,” he told CNN. “People were just starting to flee, fleeing the scene, leaving their belongings behind, Grab their children, call, scream, search for their loved ones.
“As the crowd dispersed, what I saw appeared to be lying in the middle of the street, motionless and lifeless.”
A Waukesha resident said Brooks went to a stranger’s home to seek help and said he was homeless after he allegedly ran into people and fled the scene. Police eventually arrived at the home and took Brooks into custody.